What is Vinyasa Yoga?
“What is Vinyasa?” Is usually the first thing a student new to yoga asks me. It is a branch of Hatha yoga (yoga that involves asana or physical movement). In the modern world, Vinyasa has become very popular as “improv” yoga that links the breath and movement of poses into a flow. Where Ashtanga yoga is set in a long lineage of tradition and involves the same poses in every class, Vinyasa is a melting pot of mindful movement. Many students crave this type of flow in classes because it allows them to have a dynamic array of mindfulness, breath, steady pace, muscle strengthening, and flexibility.
Why is Vinyasa Yoga Important?
Vinyasa has a wide spectrum of creativity and no two classes are ever the same! I like to offer themed classes that work up to a “peak” pose, a pose that takes someone to their edge in an effort to explore where they are holding tension. In Vinyasa classes you might find yourself getting a great workout or even creating an internal dance with the mind/body connection.
The basic arch of my Vinyasa class:
It is important to note that Vinyasa has an arch to the sequence in which a practitioner is flowing.
6 Simple Steps to Get Started with Vinyasa
- Beginning of the class: coming into the breath and centering. This is also a time when intentions for the practice are made (what do you want out of your practice today?)
- Warm Up: moving into gentle movements such as light twists and spinal flexion and extension.
- Moving into the flow: gaining larger and more full body movements. Sun Salutations might be introduced here and students begin to link each inhalation and exhalation with a different pose. Many standing and strengthening poses are at this place in the arch of class because the heart rate is has increased.
- Climax/Top of the Arch: this is where a peak pose is explored. Some like to call these “advanced” poses, but what is advanced to one person is not going to be advanced to another. Instead, I like to offer interesting and dynamic poses that both challenge and help to make a mind/body connection. This could be an arm balance, deep hip opener, a standing balance pose, or inversion. Modifications should be offered so that each yogi (no matter their practice) has the opportunity to explore.
- Coming Down: sometimes practiced as seated poses, towards the end of a vinyasa class this is the time to allow the heart rate to come back to a resting beat. Flexibility is explored here as well because the body is warmed up enough to let muscles lengthen.
- Savasana/Rest: The very end of class is a time to just let go. Lying on your mat completely relaxed for a few minutes, this lets the body integrate muscle memory and recovery. As well as allow the body and mind to develop connections in the brain.
Please note the not all Vinyasa classes are arranged in this arch. Because Vinyasa is creative and allows you to explore different parts of the body with each practice some movements and sequences may be added or subtracted. This is why Vinyasa has become so popular. You never know what you will get! But usually, it turns out to be exactly what you need.
“What the “flex” does it mean when my teacher says ‘Vinyasa’ or ‘flow through’?”
Often you will hear the sequence of Downward Facing to High Plank to Chaturanga to Upward Facing Dog back to Downward Facing Dog as a flow called Vinyasa. This is often a way to transition to a new sequence or to build the heart rate, strength, and flexibility.